AP Photo/Tim Ireland

Europa League preview: Ranking the comeback bids

1 Comment

If the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals taught us anything, it’s to not rule out comebacks.

Thursday’s Europa League quarterfinal hosts all trail heading into the second leg, and only two of them are bringing away goals back to the crib.

[ MORE: Buffon rips referee Oliver ]

All matches kick off at 3:05 p.m. ET.

4. CSKA Moscow 1-4 Arsenal

The hosts have scored three or more goals just five times this season, and they’d need to blank the Gunners for three goals to do the trick. Throw in Arsene Wenger‘s motivation to qualify for the UEFA Champions League, and the odds are not in their favor.

The read: Extremely unlikely

3. Sporting Lisbon 0-2 Atletico Madrid

Scoring two against Atleti is a rarity, only happening six times this season. But Sporting has the horses, from 31-goal man Bas Dost to versatile Bruno Fernandes and Gelson Martins.

The read: Not impossible, but a big ask.

2. Red Bull Salzburg 2-4 Lazio

Two away goals is a nice pull, but outscoring Lazio by a pair requires keeping a lid on Ciro Immobile, Luis Alberto, and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.

The read: Puncher’s chance.

1. Marseille 0-1 RB Leipzig

The read: To win by two goals at home is not absurd for OM.

LIVE – Arsenal, Atletico Madrid in Europa League action

Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Petr Cech is between the sticks as Arsenal bids to take its next step toward the UEFA Europa League crown with a visit from CSKA Moscow for a quarterfinal first leg on Thursday at the Emirates Stadium.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: UEL scores, play-by-play ]

Atletico Madrid is also at home, to Sporting Lisbon.

All matches kickoff at 3:05 p.m. ET.

Arsenal’s Starting XI is as follows: Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Wilshere, Ramsey, Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Lacazette

Arsenal vs. CSKA Moscow
Atletico Madrid vs. Sporting Lisbon
Red Bull Salzburg vs. Lazio
RB Leipzig vs. Marseille

Europa League Preview: Arsenal, Atleti the favorites

Victoria Jones/PA via AP
Leave a comment

Here we go!

Arsenal is bidding to win the UEFA Europa League to ensure a place in next season’s UEFA Champions League, and there’s precious little hope of it happening any other way.

[ MORE: LFC-Man City recap | 3 things ]

Standing directly in its way is CSKA Moscow, and defeating the Russians would mean more trouble from an unusually strong field that features Atletico Madrid, Lyon, Sporting Lisbon, Marseille, RB Leipzig, Red Bull Salzburg, and Lazio.

Here are the pertinent details of the remaining teams in the tournament, and their quarterfinal ties.

Arsenal vs. CSKA Moscow

Arsene Wenger is keeping his lineup close to the vest, including goalkeepers Petr Cech and David Ospina. He says Alexandre Lacazette is fit to start but wouldn’t commit to selecting him.

Domestically speaking: Arsenal’s 51 points are five points behind fifth place Chelsea and five ahead of seventh place Burnley in the Premier League. CSKA is three points behind Spartak Moscow and five back of Lokomotiv Moscow in the race for the Russian Premier League.

Head-to-head: The two sides met in the 2005-06 UEFA Champions League, with CSKA winning 1-0 in Russia on top of a scoreless draw at the Emirates Stadium during its first season as Arsenal’s ground.

Atletico Madrid vs. Sporting Lisbon

Domestically speaking: Atleti is nine points behind leaders Barcelona and four ahead of city rivals Real Madrid with the Madrid Derby looming this weekend. Sporting is five points shy of Porto and six behind Benfica in the Primeira Liga.

Head-to-head: A pair of Europa League dates in 2010 saw Sporting Lisbon advance by scoring the only away goals in 2-2 and 0-0 draws.

RB Leipzig vs. Marseille

Domestically speaking: Marseille is third in Ligue 1, five points back of Monaco and two ahead of Lyon. RBL is fourth in the Bundesliga, two points behind Borussia Dortmund and one clear of Bayer Leverkusen and Eintracht Frankfurt.

Head-to-head: This is the first meeting between the German whiz kids and the French mainstays.

Red Bull Salzburg vs. Lazio

Domestically speaking: Salzburg has an 8-point lead on SK Sturm Graz in the race for the Austrian Bundesliga crown, while Lazio’s 57 points are two back of fourth place Inter Milan in Seriea.

Head-to-head: Salzburg beat Lazio 2-1 home and away in the group stage of the 2009-10 Europa League.

Wenger plays down hype over Arsenal’s Europa League title chances

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Call it keeping his team grounded or suppressing expectations, but Arsene Wenger is refusing to consider Arsenal favorites heading into its UEFA Europa League quarterfinal matchup against CSKA Moscow.

As the last Premier League club left in the competition, Arsenal are currently the favorites in England to take the title, but Wenger didn’t want his players to get ahead of themselves.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

“We don’t live in dreamland, we are in a quarter-final and we have to be very realistic and go step by step and give everything to go through in the quarter-final,” Wenger said. “Then we’ll see.”
To say it’s been a tough season for Arsenal and its fans is an understatement.
The club are set to finish outside the top-four in the Premier League for the second consecutive season and the club has won just four Premier League games this calendar year (out of ten). Fans are staying away from the Emirates Stadium in droves to protest the current state of the club, which seems to be on the brink of crisis after every defeat.
Considering the context, perhaps this wasn’t the best time for Wenger to lower expectations on what has already been a disappointing season by Arsenal’s old standards. You can forgive fans for dreaming of silverware in Europe, something that has eluded Arsenal during its years in the European Cup and Europa League.
Arsenal faces CSKA Moscow on Thursday’s first leg at the Emirates Stadium, and we’ll see if Arsenal can get off to a great start like it did against AC Milan in the Round of 16.

Further crowd trouble could see Lyon’s European ban made active

AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani
Leave a comment

Lyon has not enjoyed sportsmanship on and off the pitch this season.

You’ll remember an ugly incident between its players and Everton fans this season, but it’s been Lyon’s support which has had the Ligue 1 club under the microscope for some time.

[ MORE: (Very) Fresh faces for USMNT ]

Lyon had a two-year ban suspended in April, and antics before Thursday’s Europa League match versus CSKA Moscow could see the French side’s suspension from European competition put into action. From the BBC:

Lyon have been charged with racist behaviour, crowd disturbances, throwing objects and setting off fireworks and blocking stairways.

Police say up to 150 ultras attacked officers outside Lyon’s stadium on Thursday.